I have not taken any particular pride in having missed maybe 15 classes in 26 years of teaching. And that may be high. I missed half of those from illness; the other half from professional obligations or job seeking. Working class people show up for work is all; if you don’t you don’t get paid because you get paid by the hour. I don’t get paid by the hour but I continue to function as if I did. Bricklayers don’t get personal days off.
One of my working class friends wrote about showing up for a graduate seminar sick with a runny nose and how one of her colleagues snapped at her for showing up and taking the chance that she might infect the rest of the lot. My working class friend explained to her colleague what was what and to go screw herself. I am not sure my working class friend was right, but if you are wc you do go to work.
I have woken up all moaning, and down at the mouth, and looking bleary eyed and feeling down emotionally or physically, and my wife will say, why don’t you stay home, and I will say, “Are you crazy. What the fuck are you thinking? How long have we been together? Don’t you understand me yet? Christ! Is our marriage a sham? You know I show up for work unless I have a fever.” There’s a phrase for this reaction, “Denial by Exaggeration.”
Unconsciously of course, I want to stay home. I am whipped and exhausted. But denial by exaggeration allows me to completely shift the nature of the discussion from whether or not I am feeling lousy and should stay home to whether or not our marriage is a phony sham. That’s logic for you. I use denial by exaggeration all the time.
So being a sort of educational iron man is not something I take any particular pride in. The psyche is just too complicated for some straight one to one equation. Go to work. Go to heaven. That’s not how it works. Because in addition to the wc background, I am a workaholic. You can have workaholic at all levels of society. I am one however because I identified with my father and as far as I could see he served no longer purpose than to go to work. If he had not worked, he might as well have been dead. Because other than working and making some money to feed his family, he had no other redeeming social value. So not only am I a workoholic with low self-esteem.
So coming down with pneumonia, as I have just done, and having already missed two classes in a row and knowing I will miss one more, for three in a row is a real blow to my iron man image. I don’t know how I got this sick.
Anyhow when I woke up with a temperature of a 104 I knew I wasn’t going to class that day. And when my wife suggest I stay home and see a doctor, I didn’t make any argument.